Strong Women, Strong Future

How Women Rock the STEM Field at TU Darmstadt

Women and technology? Well, absolutely! Where once near exclusively men were found, today an increasing number of women in STEM fields are determining technical developments and scientific progress – and that's a good thing. Do you want to know what it's like to enter the STEM field at TU Darmstadt as a woman? Here you'll find the answer from 5 women who are part of our #studentsofTUdarmstadt community.

Julia,
Industrial Engineering, specialising in Mechanical Engineering

I never really thought about whether it was a STEM programme, what the percentage of women would be like later in the professional world, etc. I just did what I liked. I just do what I like.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Julia
Picture: Britta Hüning

Why choose to study in the STEM fields?

Hello to everyone, first of all thank you for taking the time for this interview! Let's dive in with the first question: All five of you have something in common. You are all pursuing careers in STEM fields – how did you come to this decision?

Julia: “I've always liked math but a degree in math didn't seem to be the right fit for me. So, I looked for something that (roughly) covered my interests and was versatile at the same time. That's what I found in my degree programme – industrial engineering with a major in mechanical engineering. I never really thought about whether it was a STEM programme, what the percentage of women would be like later in my career, etc. I just did what I liked. I just do what I like.”

Ons: “Very early in my life I have come to realize that STEM plays a role in pretty much all of our surroundings. That realization, as well as an interest in making tasks easier and solving many of humanity's problems, was enough to spark my urge to contribute to this remarkably fascinating programme.”

Judith: “I feel similarly. I just find it interesting to understand how the Earth works and how it came to be. To not only acquire this knowledge, but also to apply it practically, for example to protect the earth, I think is even more awesome. That's why I find the combination of application and geosciences and the core topics of water, energy and environment great here at TU Darmstadt.”

Imke: “I have always enjoyed tricky tasks and the logical deduction of correlations from a very young age. I like to work creatively and very solution oriented. My colleagues describe my approach with the words ”can’t be done isn’t okay“. Today I know that I have found the right course of study for my strengths, but at the beginning I wasn't quite sure.”

Catalina: “Yes, totally! Even as a child, I asked myself many questions about the world around us that adults couldn't always give me an accurate answer to. That's why, since I was a kid, I wanted to become the person who could find the answers to those questions on my own. That's why I started studying engineering topics. Biomolecular engineering can open many doors for research and new discoveries. The idea of contributing motivates and inspires me as much as it did when I was a kid.”

Imke,
PhD student in Mechanical Engineering

Working with a woman is not very established yet in our environment, but I am looking forward to the steady increase of women at my institute and I think working in mixed teams is great.

Picture: Privat

What to expect when choosing to dive into STEM programmes

Were there any particular hurdles that you specifically faced as women? If so, how did you deal with them and how did you overcome them?

Catalina: “My parents tried every way they could think of to convince me not to pursue such a major, saying that this profession is not for women. They suggested something simpler with a focus on creativity, business or social sciences. What they didn't consider, however: Even science, is impossible to do without communication and creativity.”

Julia: “In part, I was confronted with questions such as, 'Will you be able to find a job later?' I know there are still differences between men and women both in society and in working life and all other areas. That needs to be changed. But that is only possible if there is a commitment to it and every woman can do what she wants, be it professionally, or privately. And I want to do my part by doing what I like.”

Imke: “Of course, I had some negative experiences as a woman in a male domain. The most formative for me was in a supervisor-student situation where I had to deal with advances. Overall, though, it has taught me to stand up for myself and to address injustice openly and without fear of consequences. Working with a woman is not very established yet. In our environment at least, but I'm happy about the steady increase of women at my institute and I think working in mixed teams is great.”

Ons,
Mechatronic Engineering

There are a million different ways to solve a problem. And thinking outside the box is exactly what this industry needs.

Portrait Ons
Picture: Britta Hüning

What support services did you take advantage of at TU Darmstadt when you started your STEM studies?

Ons: “In my first year at TU Darmstadt, I managed to integrate quickly thanks to the PreCIS programme (Preparatory Course and Support Programme for International Students), which generally introduces foreign students to the basics of university life here.”

Catalina: “Oh yes, the PreCIS programme also helped me a lot in the beginning! Thanks to this course, I quickly learned all the details about studying at the university. I also have a mentor who helps and supports me. At this point, thanks to the university, through which I not only received the necessary knowledge for my further path, but also met so many great people.”

Imke: “At the beginning of my PhD, I also participated in a mentoring programme, even specifically for women. Both with my mentor and with my peers, I am still in lively exchange today. In addition, TU Darmstadt's Equal Opportunities Officer supported me and encouraged me to stand up for myself. As a doctoral student, I find the Ingenium further education programme especially great, because it supports both the doctorate, but also offers many continuing education opportunities for the time after the doctorate and for finding this path.”

Catalina,
Biomolecular Engineering

Biomolecular Engineering can open many doors for research and new discoveries. The idea of contributing motivates and inspires me.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Catalina
Picture: Britta Hüning

Equality at TU Darmstadt

Equality is part of the spirit of TU Darmstadt and is an important basis for its successful development. Together, everyone should work to ensure that equal opportunities and equal rights are established in all fields of study, teaching, research and administration. Various parties are committed to equal opportunities in many areas of TU Darmstadt. In addition to a full-time Equal Opportunities Officer and the Equal Opportunities Office, there are also decentralized Equal Opportunities Officers who work in the individual departments and institutions.

These are some of the offerings of the Equal Opportunity Office:

Big Sister – Mentoring and Networking.

Opportunities in mentoring and networking for female students with a migration background or from abroad.

Mentoring Hessen

The joint project of Hessian universities and colleges supports the career development of female students and scientists.

Coaching

Offer for female professors in career and personnel development.

Re-entry scholarship

Scholarship for female scientists with a doctorate who have interrupted their research due to family planning and want to resume.

Teaching relief for female professors

Opportunity for female professors to reduce their teaching load after the birth of a child.

Why is it worthwhile for women to come to TU Darmstadt?

Judith: “Under a third of the students at TU Darmstadt are women. Especially as a woman in the STEM field, you can become a role model and inspire other women. But whether you're a woman or not: in any case, it's worth coming to TU Darmstadt.”

Julia: “I feel really well taken care of at TU Darmstadt. I have the feeling that the women in the STEM fields support each other very strongly and that makes studying a little easier. I also have to say, especially for those interested coming from abroad, that Darmstadt is a very safe city.”

Judith,
Applied Geosciences

Believe in yourself, do what interests you and what you enjoy. If someone thinks you can't do it, prove them wrong.

Portraitfoto Judith
Picture: Britta Hüning

Interested in STEM programmes? Go for it!

What advice can you give to students who want to study STEM?

Imke: “If you are interested in studying STEM, you should definitely go for it and don't underestimate yourself! In most cases, more men than women drop out of their studies, because they made a rash decision in favor of a stereotypical field of study. The interest in a course of study already shows a relevant engagement with the field, which you should definitely pursue. And once you enter the degree, find a study group that sees you as an equal and that you enjoy spending time with.”

Ons: “If you feel you are up to the challenge, don't let anything stop you. My best advice is to never lose your voice. There are a million different ways to solve a problem. And thinking outside the box is exactly what this industry needs.”

Julia: “That's right, take heart! No matter what anyone else says, if you like it, are good at it, or want to make a career in this field, do it! In the end, it's your life and you have to be satisfied and happy with it. It's a lot of work, everyone has to realize that, and you should be ready for it. But in the end, it's fun and you can achieve your goals, whatever they may be.”

Judith: “Believe in yourself, do what interests you and what you enjoy. If someone thinks you can't do something, prove them wrong. If you don't understand something, ask for help.”

Catalina: “I couldn't agree more! I always say science is a real adventure. Try it out and be part of that adventure!”

Thank you times a million for your motivating words and of course for your time! And for all the people interested in learning even more about studying STEM as a woman at TU Darmstadt: Information from the Central Student Counseling and Orientation on STEM degree programmes can be found here.

Picture: Privat

Imke

Hello everybody, I am Imke Lorenz and I am working on my PhD in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at the TU Darmstadt. Even though I spent some time abroad during my bachelor’s and master’s, I completed most of my studies here, so that I can call myself a creation of Darmstadt's mechanical engineering. I am more than happy to answer any questions you may have about my experiences, the university, the region, and the various possibilities. It was only during my studies that I really realised mechanical engineering is so much more. It always keeps pace with current changes and has many exciting fields of application associated with it, which I can research today.

Portraitfoto Judith
Picture: Britta Hüning

Judith

Hello, my name is Judith and I’m doing a degree in applied geosciences at TU Darmstadt. I’ll tell you openly and honestly why I decided to come to Darmstadt – the City of Science – to go to university! If you look for me on campus, you’ll most likely find me at the Botanical Garden campus. Not just because it’s particularly beautiful there, but because that’s also where my department is located. chose this university based on a combination of two factors: its high ranking and personal recommendations from professional engineers I know. Today, shortly before graduation, I’m happy to have TU Darmstadt as a strong partner at my side and who provides support in my career planning Maybe we’ll run into each other at TU Darmstadt or in one of the university clubs!

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Catalina
Picture: Britta Hüning

Catalina

Hey, I'm Catalina and I study Biomolecular Engineering at the Technical University of Darmstadt.

Portrait Ons
Picture: Britta Hüning

Ons

My name is Ons. I was born and raised in Tunisia. I am doing my Mechatronic Engineering studies at TU Darmstadt.

Portrait TU Darmstadt Ambassador Julia
Picture: Britta Hüning

Julia

Hi, I'm Julia and I have been studying Industrial Engineering, specialising in Mechanical Engineering, for almost one semester now. I am one of the first students who started their studies digitally. It was different from what I imagined, but considering the circumstances, I liked it. There were many online activities to meet new people, which went very well.